2008/09 Winner & Finalists

Joe Meno, Tobais Wolff, and Jhumpa Lahiri. (Event photos by Eric Andrew.)

Joe Meno, Tobais Wolff, and Jhumpa Lahiri. (Event photos by Eric Andrew.)


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 Our Story Begins by Tobias Wolff

Our Story Begins by Tobias Wolff (Alfred A. Knopf) — The first part of this collection includes 16 stories from three previous collections, several of which have already attained the status of classics. The final ten stories, newly published in book form, show a writer who continues to work at the peak of his powers, capable of honestly, unflinchingly, and eloquently portraying characters’ struggles with essential truths about themselves.

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Tobias Wolff is the author of three previous story collections (In the Garden of the North American Martyrs, Back in the World, and The Night in Question) a novella (The Barracks Thief), a novel (Old School), and two memoirs (This Boy’s Life and In Pharaoh’s Army). His honors include the PEN/Malamud Award and the Rea Award—both for excellence in the short story—the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and the PEN/Faulkner Award. He lives in Northern California and teaches at Stanford University.

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Finalist: Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri (Alfred A. Knopf) — As the title signifies, these eight stories concern characters in flux, both literally and emotionally, living in places they can’t quite call home. The last three stories focus on Hema and Kaushik, the children of immigrants to America from India, whose lives intersect as youngsters and then adults. Throughout, Lahiri’s skillfully polished prose conveys significant depth of thought and feeling.

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Jhumpa Lahiri was born in London and raised in Rhode Island. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and the author of the novel The Namesake and the short story collection Interpreter of Maladies, which won the Pulitzer Prize, the PEN/Hemingway Award, and The New Yorker Debut of the Year. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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Finalist: Demons in the Spring by Joe Meno

Demons in the Spring by Joe Meno (Akashic Books) — Each of theses 20 stories evokes a different and surprising world, where, for instance, victims held at gunpoint fall in love with their captors, freed zoo animals roam the streets, a wife turns into a cloud whenever her husband makes a romantic overture, miniature elephants become prized and acutely sensitive pets, and a tiny city grows inside a woman like a cancer. Yet, no matter how imaginative the situation, the stories remain grounded in real empathy and plausible detail.

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Joe Meno is the author of the novels Hairstyles of the Damned, The Boy Detective Fails, How the Hula Girl Sings, and Tender as Hellfire, as well as the short story collection Bluebirds Used to Croon in the Choir. He has won the Nelson Algren Award for short fiction and teaches at Columbia College Chicago.

The 2008/09 Story Prize Judges

  • Editor/Author Daniel Menaker
  • Bookseller Rick Simonson
  • Author/One Story Editor Hannah Tinti